Tempers and Timers

Roscoe Bard jogged to the landing pad, his utility vest bouncing heavily against his scrawny chest. In his haste to greet the pilot he’d grabbed his jacket but hadn’t put it on.

The small scout ship—only 30 meters from tip to tail—was only a dragonfly-shaped silhouette against the gargantuan disk of the late evening sun. Although the K-type star dominated the sky like a beachball at arm’s length, it was much cooler than the G and F-types that most settled worlds orbited, and the breeze coming off the bay more than made it chilly enough to warrant the jacket that Bard now cradled under one arm.

The gangplank dropped and out came the pilot, descending onto a world he’d never been to before with a self-assured stride that declared this was a man of purpose. Bard galloped crookedly up to the pilot and tried to act professional. Stand up straight, look him in the eye. Speak clearly.

“Welcome to New San—ugh—”

He grunted as the pilot shoved a flight helmet into the pit of his stomach. His arms reached out reflexively to avoid dropping it as he simultaneously forced himself not to double over.

“Give it here,” said the pilot as he grabbed the jacket from Bard’s hand and threw it on. He scrunched his frown into a deep chasm when he noticed its wear. “Take a look at the port thruster gimbals, they’re sticking. And I’ll take a hot coffee if you’ve got it, or whatever’s the next closest thing if you don’t.”

Bard awkwardly slowed to a stop and watched the pilot disappear into the station. That was my uncle’s jacket you asshole, he thought. The wind ruffled his wispy hair, all but tying it into knots.

He trudged back to his workstation, dragging his feet against the rough glassy deck. He looked like a dog who’d been kicked in the ribs for someone else’s bad day, and his shoulders hunched inwards while his arms shivered like barren tree branches in the wind as he pushed his tool cart alongside the ship.

While working on the gimbals, he tossed his impact wrench back onto the cart with a clatter, and several miscellaneous pieces fell to the ground. He stooped over to pick them up and found that one was a timer board. He fixated on it as a schematic assembled itself in his mind.

He could wire it into the nav system in such a way that it would be invisible until the ship made a jump. The jump could trigger the timer to cut power to the nav computer after, say, two minutes. Or instead of cutting power, it could pull an amperage spike, maybe jump around the fuses and burn the wires until the casing melts.

The pilot was an asshole, but he didn’t deserve that.

Did he?

As if in answer, there was a yell just then from across the hangar. “Hey, where the fuck’s that coffee?”

Notes: I used an image as a writing prompt for this piece. You may be able to find the image on the artist’s ArtStation page.

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